Richard Justice

Hall's bells should ring for Trevor in '18

Hall's bells should ring for Trevor in '18

Hang in there, Trevor Hoffman. You're going to get into the Hall of Fame very soon now. There's pretty much no doubt about that.

How about next year? Yes, that sounds about right.

Hoffman falls 5 votes shy of election to Hall

You're too close now. Close enough to taste it. In fact, that's the larger message on a bitterly disappointing day.

2017 Hall of Fame election results
Votes Player Percentage
381 Jeff Bagwell 86.2%
380 Tim Raines 86.0%
336 Ivan Rodriguez 76.0%
327 Trevor Hoffman 74.0%
317 Vladimir Guerrero 71.7%
259 Edgar Martinez 58.6%
239 Roger Clemens 54.1%
238 Barry Bonds 53.8%
229 Mike Mussina 51.8%
199 Curt Schilling 45.0%
Complete voting results »

Sure, it's stinks to be forced to wait another year. When Craig Biggio missed by three votes three years ago, he got in his pickup and drove from his home in Houston to his ranch in South Texas.

"I needed to get away for a couple of days," Biggio said.

That's surely how Hoffman is feeling after being named on 327 of 442 Hall of Fame ballots, yet missing the 75 percent induction requirement by five lousy votes.

"For me, falling short of this class is disappointing," Hoffman said in a statement that was typically gracious. "But I don't take being on the ballot lightly. I'm grateful for every vote, and I am truly humbled to have come so close.

Complete Hall of Fame coverage

"I hope to one day soon share a Hall of Fame celebration with my family, friends, teammates and all of San Diego."

Former Padres teammate Mark Grant spoke for a lot of people when he tweeted: "This one hurts. Absolutely ludicrous that you didn't get in. 1% shy, but 100% HOF'er in my book!"

Bagwell, Pudge, Raines elected to Hall of Fame

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer also took to Twitter, writing, "There's no doubt you're a Hall of Famer, @THoffman51. You are a San Diego legend -- and the game's best closer, period."

For Hoffman to get 74 percent of the vote -- to become the sixth player to miss by one percentage point -- says plenty about the Baseball Hall of Fame and how difficult it is to get in the door.

That's a good thing. That's how it was set up. As Joe Torre memorably said one year when he missed the cut, "It's the Hall of Fame. It's supposed to be tough to get into."

Hoffman just misses HOF election

In other words, the Hall of Fame isn't a borderline deal. To clear the 75 percent threshold tells every inductee he belongs with the best of the best.

In 82 years of voting, the Baseball Writers' Association of America has voted for only 124 players, including this year's trio of Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez.

Various committees have honored another 195, including Negro Leaguers, managers, executives and umpires. By any metric, any club that has admitted 319 members in 82 years is a pretty exclusive little gathering.

Some of us think there's a backlog of qualified candidates and that this generation of players is under-represented in the Hall of Fame.

But that's a discussion for another day. The point is that the doors of Cooperstown will almost certainly open for Hoffman in 2018.

Biggio got in a year after his close call, and the whole waiting thing now seems like a distant memory.

Smoltz on Hoffman

"When it happens, you keep pinching yourself," Biggio said. "You look around on that stage and see the club you're now a member of."

That's how it'll be for Hoffman, hopefully in the summer of 2018. He'll look around and see Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax, the best of the best.

At that point, it won't matter that Hoffman had to wait an extra 12 months. He'll grasp the company he's now keeping, and the pain of Wednesday's close call will have given way to a celebration.

MLB Tonight: Trevor Hoffman

Here's the bottom line: Trevor Hoffman belongs in the Hall of Fame. No one in history has gotten this close and not ultimately reached the Hall.

Besides that, Hoffman has the appropriate credentials. Voters have struggled with whether relievers even belong in the Hall of Fame. Regardless, closers are part of the game, and the best of them should be in the Hall.

Hoffman's case is straightforward. His 601 saves are the second most in history, trailing only Mariano Rivera's 652. His 1,035 games are 11th on the all-time list.

Among relievers with at least 1,000 innings, Hoffman's save percentage (88.8) is second best all time. He's fourth in ERA+ (141), second in WHIP (1.06) and first in strikeout rate (25.8).

Hoffman's signature pitch -- a circle changeup -- was so good that hitters couldn't make contact even when they knew it was coming.

"He could tell me he was going to throw it -- and he pretty much did -- and I couldn't hit it," Biggio said.

Hoffman was so precise that his arm action was exactly the same for his fastball. His changeup just didn't get to home plate as quickly and tied hitters in knots.

Hoffman saved at least 30 games in 14 of his final 16 seasons and made the National League All-Star team seven times in a 12-season stretch between 1998 and 2009.

Hoffman placed second in NL Cy Young Award voting in 1998 and 2006, as well as fifth- and sixth-place finishes in 1996 and '99, respectively.

Closers have to be evaluated apart from starting pitchers because they don't have the innings to stand out. Hoffman's career Wins Above Replacement of 28.4 is that of an average offensive player.

But Hoffman helped define a new role in baseball, just as Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter and Goose Gossage did in an earlier era.

Hoffman's entrance into home games, preceded by the iconic opening of AC/DC's "Hells Bells," became one of the coolest things in baseball.

Maybe they'll play that in Cooperstown when Hoffman approaches the podium for his acceptance speech, hopefully in 2018.

There's zero question Hoffman belongs in the Hall of Fame. That's where the best of the best are supposed to be.

Richard Justice is a columnist for You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.